Unbelievable, but true!
This year, on New Year’s Day, Cathay Pacific put up round trip tickets from Vietnam to New York—and buyers noticed something unusual. Every ticket was priced at $675, regardless of seat type or class.
First class tickets on this flight, normally selling for $16,000, were now being sold at over a 95% discount. Needless to say, quite a few people scooped up these majorly discounted tickets, even if they hadn’t been planning a trip to Vietnam anytime soon.
The South China Morning Post found 11 people who had bought these first and business class error fares. These 18 tickets totaled around $28,000 dollars, but should have sold for $690,000!
Cathay Pacific honored the fares, and even tweeted this: “Happy 2019 all, and to those who bought our good – VERY good surprise ‘special’ on New Year’s Day, yes – we made a mistake but we look forward to welcoming you on board with your ticket issued. Hope this will make your 2019 ‘special’ too!”
In 2007, you could book a business class flight from San Francisco to Auckland with a New Zealand return for $1,500—it should have been $15,000.
In 2013, you could fly to Hawaii from US cities for $7.00 due to a computer glitch.
These fares are called error fares. They’re rare, but when they happen, tens of thousands of dollars can be saved.
Here are the reasons airlines make fare errors:
Sometimes digits are omitted when someone is entering a fare, and this can result in a massive discount. (Such was the case when you could buy a $15,000 ticket to Auckland for $1,500.)
In some cases, calculating fares when changing from one currency to another can cause mishaps. For instance, one British Airlines ticket that should have been sold for $4,000 was sold for just $79.00—there was a problem when converting between Danish Kroner and British Pound.
Forgetting fuel surcharges
Fuel surcharges were created in a time when oil prices were rocketing so that airlines could easily account for the added cost of fuel for every ticket. They’ve stuck around, even though fuel doesn’t cost as much as it once did, and they make up a lot of the cost of a ticket. (Oftentimes they’re called “carrier-imposed surcharges.”) If they’re accidentally left off when an airline posts the price of a ticket, the result can be a heavily discounted error fare.
But where can you hear about these fares, (and catch them before the airlines make the fix?)
Use an online booking engine to search fares over an entire month. When you’re zoomed out and looking across fares for an entire month, it’s easy to spot a fare that doesn’t belong, such as a flight for $200 instead of $2,000.
Follow discussion forums, fare-hunting websites, and fare-hunters on social media. Staying in the loop will make you more likely to hear about an error fare before the airlines catch wind and correct it. (Remember: errors may only be around for hours or minutes before they’re corrected!)
I found a mistake fare! Now what?
Book now, think later.
You don’t know how long the deal is going to be around for, and you don’t want to miss out. In the U.S., airlines must offer a refund within 24 hours of a flight’s booking, so there is no risk in booking the flight now, and deciding later to refund it.
Most of the time airlines will honor error fares, but they don’t always. Just in case the airline doesn’t honor the fare, you will want to wait for your flight confirmation before making nonrefundable hotel or tour reservations.
If you’re not so lucky to snap up an airline snafu, but your heart is set on a trip to Paris, or you need to fly to Dubai in two months for business, not to worry. Our experienced travel agents will still save you big bucks on first and business class—no mistake about it!